In 2009, the Danish writer and historian Lars Hedegaard, who is the founder and president of the Danish Free Press Society, made remarks in his home about the treatment of women in Muslim communities. His observations, while expressed in broad generalizations, were based in fact, although when they were made public and resulted in widespread criticism he apologized for the way he had expressed himself. This was not good enough for the Danish courts. He was charged with violating Denmark's racism law, and went to trial in January 2011. He was acquitted, but was tried again on the same charges three months later. This time he was found guilty. Last Friday Hedegaard initiated an appeal of his conviction before the Danish Supreme Court.
Not so many years ago, such a story would have been regarded as nothing less than sensational: a writer is put on trial in a Western country for making critical remarks about a certain religion's ideology and practices. The unsettling truth is that the more often the sensational happens, the less and less sensational it becomes. In recent years, the Western world has grown used to seeing writers hauled before official tribunals – Mark Steyn in Canada, Oriana Fallaci in Italy, Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff in Austria – invariably for criticizing Islam. It doesn't help that the mainstream media, with very few exceptions, almost always report on these actions as if they were anything but sensational: they're treated as ordinary, reasonable, and legitimate judicial proceedings.